If hummus and pesto got together and decided to have a baby, I suspect it would taste something like this.
Fresh, creamy and deliciously aromatic, a full-bodied spread infused with peppery notes, hints of piquant garlic and tangy lemon all wrapped up in a delicate shade of chartreuse.
The term hummus is traditionally reserved for the well-loved Middle Eastern classic made with chickpea and sesame seed (tahini) but in North America, for good or for bad, it often takes on a more liberal interpretation encompassing a broad variety of beans and even vegetable purées. It’s one of those brand recognition things that gets turned out onto a larger class of similars.
Food lovers (or sensualists as I recently came across – how great is that) sometimes have an irrepressible urge to tinker. That doesn’t mean we necessarily improve on things or that we don’t appreciate and wander back to the point of origin (classics are established for a reason after all), but there is something to be said for variety and the pleasure of playing.
With summer nipping at our heels and fragrant basil all around, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to pair a few of our favorites in this simple summer purée which works well as a dip but need not be limited to dunking. This mixture is delicious in sandwiches as a spread, on top of grilled chicken and fish, burgs of all kinds and mixed into salads — I love it with my boiled eggs and coleslaw at lunch. Protein rich (beans, cashew), gorgeous fats (olive oil, cashew) and low glycemic carbohydrates (beans) enlivened by fragrant seasonings.
And you can make this beauty your own every time. Play with different combinations of pulses (lentils/beans), vegetables and fruit and don’t forget to draw in those delicious garden herbs too!
- 2 cups cooked white beans, thoroughly rinsed if using canned (I used Great Northern Beans - slightly smaller than cannellini prepared from dry)
- 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil
- ½ cup soaked cashews
- 4-6 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2-4 garlic cloves, chopped fine (I used 3)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp coarse black pepper
- optional heat: see Notes below.
- Place cashews in a bowl and cover with tepid water allowing the nuts to soak for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight before draining.
- Place cooked and cooled beans, basil, drained cashews, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, sea salt and pepper in a blender or food processor and pulse (stopping to scrape down as necessary) until desired texture is achieved - lumpy, smooth, etc.
- Taste the dip and adjust seasonings as desired (keeping in mind that some flavors - particularly garlic - build over time).
- This dip will store well in a covered container in the fridge for about one week.
- See Notes below for other details.
Adding Heat - although I do love heat, I didn't want to spoil the delicate play of flavors in this dip (perfectly fragrant in their own right) by adding any here but as always this is a personal choice. If you would like to add a little kick, any number of options may work here from paprika to red pepper flakes to a variety of chiles such as ancho, chipotle and cayenne or the milder more generic 'chili powder' found in grocery stores.
Soaking the Cashews - I soaked the cashews for texture in this recipe - adding to that creamy factor. For those on a primarily plant based diet there may also be the benefit of reducing phytates which bind minerals making them less available for absorption (most of us aptly make up for these minerals through expansive diets) - keep in mind too that though phytic acid often gets a bad wrap in the anecdotal literature, it operates as an antioxidant in the body.
The Crackers - I discovered the 3 seed sweet potato crackers (gluten-free) you see in the images at Nob Hill the other day when I was assembling goodies as a thank you for my son's college reference writers (his idea!) - they're really yummy and I appreciate their no nonsense ingredients. RW Garcia is based out of San Jose, CA (see you next year Sharks!).